There are certain international travel destinations that are on everyone’s to-do list. Finland is gorgeous. Ireland is stunning. Borneo can’t be missed. But there’s one region that doesn’t get nearly as much of the spotlight as it should: the Middle East. While it’s true that every region has areas you might not want to visit, it would be unfair to say that all of the Middle East isn’t worthy of your time. In particular, Abu Dhabi is deserving of your attention, as it’s one of the most popular destinations in the Middle East.
Traveling Back in Time in Abu Dhabi
The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi has it all: culture, history, food, architecture, luxury — you name it. If you want to dive deep into Abu Dhabi’s heritage, head to Heritage Village. A fishing village once stood there, and Heritage Village has kept the representation of it alive and well. Walk past Bedouin tents and wooden huts, experience weaving and metal-working demonstrations, and pick up locally made crafts and spices.
If you want to explore nature, make your way to the Al Ain Oasis — a nearly 3,000-acre park best known for being home to almost 150,000 date palms. The oasis ecosystem includes a complex shared water supply made of wells and the UAE’s irrigation system, called “aflaj.” Al Ain Oasis is not to be missed, and it’s the UAE’s first curated UNESCO World Heritage site.
It doesn’t end there. Pencil time in to visit Jebel Hafeet — the tallest mountain in the emirate and second tallest in the country. Not only is it the site of many important fossil discoveries, but it offers one of the most gorgeous road trips you’ll ever take.
It wouldn’t be a vacation without dining out and shopping, and that’s where the Corniche comes into play. See the city’s most popular hotels, grab a delicious lunch, and shop to your heart’s content. And don’t forget that Corniche also gives you access to the city’s best beaches.
A trip to Abu Dhabi wouldn’t be complete without stopping at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque — arguably the capital’s most popular destination. It was built between 1996 and 2007, requested by the founder and first president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. With 82 domes, over 1,000 columns, and shining with white and gold, it’s one of the largest mosques on the planet. It’s home to the world’s largest hand-woven rug, and one of the world’s biggest chandeliers. If you’re worried about being allowed inside, fear not: this is one of two mosques in the UAE that is open to tourists who aren’t Muslim.
Next, let’s talk about something that’s probably on everyone’s mind: safety. Yes, Abu Dhabi is safe to travel to! The UAE is in general. In fact, some argue there’s nowhere safer. It’s a true melting pot, drawing visitors from all across the globe.
With so much to offer (and neighboring Dubai just a car trip away), we can hear Abu Dhabi calling our name.